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American mastery

By Lisa Fabrizio
web posted April 18, 2011

I'm not the most ardent or knowledgeable golf fan in the world, but my husband is. And so it was that he and his friends were in the unenviable position of watching the last round of the Masters with me. I say unenviable, because it is a proven impossibility that I can sit still for more than five minutes without offering wholly unsolicited opinions on almost anything. So, while my husband grilled up his terrific rib-eye steaks, I dished out my take on the Masters.

Now, I'm not a total golf illiterate; I've actually played alongside my husband when he's needed a fourth for a tournament—you know, the 'best ball' kind where you don't really have to do anything but take up space—and the quaint customs and rules like the honor system are right up this conservative's alley. And I have for years enjoyed certain televised tournaments, chiefly the British Open and the Ryder Cup.

It's easy to see why Americans love the Open. Although the English and Scottish links courses have little in common with our manicured marvels, all duffers enjoy seeing their professional counterparts suffer the slings and arrows of the Road Hole at the Old Course at St. Andrews and the cold cruelty of Carnoustie, where Frenchman Jean Van de Velde played perhaps the worst 72nd hole in major golfing history.

And then there's the Ryder Cup; that biennial clash between us and them. Of course the Ryder Cup originally pitted U.S. players against those from Great Britain, but due to American dominance, it was expanded to include golfers from the rest of Europe as well. Being a conservative, and therefore a closed-minded xenophobe, I love the chance to root for zillionaires who debase themselves every two years for mere pride of country. Of all the memories I have of 9/11 and its immediate aftermath, I must admit that one of the oddest is a bitter regret that the 2001 Ryder Cup was postponed for a year; especially after the fun at Brookline in 1999.

But, dare I say it? TV coverage of the Masters drives me crazy in many ways. First and foremost is the theme song. Although I've heard it countless times, I've yet to recognize any semblance of a melody to it. A little research reveals that it is called "Augusta" and was written by Dave Loggins of "Please Come to Boston" fame, which might explain why it so gets on my nerves.

Then there's the fervent desire of CBS to make every winner the subject of heart-warming or heart-wrenching background stories, as well as the reverent whispering of booth-bound commentators who are not even near the action but feel duty-bound to maintain hushed tones. This group usually includes the uber-obligatory British commentator, who must grace every American tournament to elucidate the finer points for us, despite the fact that we've been playing the game here for hundreds of years.

But despite the coverage, I really do love the Masters, or rather, the masterminds behind it: the august members of the Augusta National Golf Club. The greatest Masters moment for me? Was it Jack in '86 or Crenshaw in '95? No, it was Hootie Johnson in '02 who, when confronted by feminist Martha Burk, refused to knuckle under to protest threats, basically telling Martha and the gals to take a dip in Rae's Creek. The situation was made even more delicious as the New York Times ran nearly three times as many pieces (102) about the protest than the number of actual protesters who showed up at Augusta (40). Ultimately, Burk and her Times cohorts ended up granting all golf fans their ultimate fantasy: a commercial-free telecast for two years!

Much was made during this year's Masters about the domination of foreign players and some saw this as a good thing. But that's where my xenophobia kicked in. It seemed like every bite of my rib-eye brought more Australian colors to the leader board, making for quite a nasty case of flag envy. So maybe it's time to take action, just like the Brits did in 1979 when they enlisted their European brethren to level the Ryder Cup playing field. I don't know, maybe Hootie and the boys can devise a test for prospective entrants; if they can't identify the grits at the annual Masters Prayer Breakfast, send 'em packing! ESR

Lisa Fabrizio is a columnist who hails from Connecticut. You may write her at mailbox@lisafab.com.

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